Indigenous peoples from around the world are demanding that governments and industry stop the exploitation of forests without their consent.
In a recommendation tabled last week before the 4,000 delegates from 140 countries attending the United-Nations-sponsored World Forestry Congress in Quebec City, indigenous groups called for native participation in defining forest policies and ensuring them a role in the management of natural resources.
Dozens of indigenous groups from 34 countries on every continent were in Quebec City to argue their case before the congress, which is meeting for the first time in Canada.
The recommendation, which has met some resistance at the meetings from governments and representatives of the forest industry, calls for the “need to recognize, respect and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples in relation to forest planning and management,” arguing that it would be a major step toward “equitable, socially beneficial and environmentally acceptable management of the world forest resources.”
“Enough is enough,” said Ghislain Picard, regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador. “The time for declarations is over. It is time for action and indigenous peoples to really contribute to the development of forest resources.”
With 10 per cent of the world’s forest, Canada is one of the largest forest-producing nations in the world, but it has failed to set an example in dealing with native communities, said Harry Bombay, executive director of the National Aboriginal Forestry Association.
The system in Canada of allocating large tracts of land for harvesting wood fails to address the needs of native people, he said. “We know that in other countries, there is greater emphasis on community control of forests.”
Earlier in the week, the Indigenous Peoples’ Forum adopted the Wendake Action Plan, which calls into question the role played by the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and other powerful international organizations in enforcing what it calls the inherent right of natives to participate in the harvesting and management of the forest resources.